Version tested: Wii
"Great fun and easy to play for all the family!" shouts the back of the box. Well, no. Like altogether too many third-party Wii games, the only way in which Ready 2 Rumble Revolution is accessible is that everyone - no matter their age, gaming aptitude, IQ or marketing profile - will find it equally unwieldy, complex, unpredictable and annoying to use.
Ready 2 Rumble Revolution spruces up Midway's 1999 featherweight champ Ready 2 Rumble Boxing, only under an Atari banner this time. Not a bad idea in theory. Ready 2 Rumble was a lively boxing game that channelled the punch-drunk cartoon characters of Nintendo's Punch-Out!! (also due a Wii remake soon) in a more conventional two-player beat-'em-up. It swaggered, japed and hollered its way into the hearts of many, especially in a crisp Dreamcast version, and not without reason.
Actually, it's 2000's Ready 2 Rumble Boxing Round 2 that's the direct inspiration here. That game famously featured Bill and Hilary Clinton as unlockable characters, along with once-great pop freak no-I-didn't-get-tickets Michael Jackson, and rhyming basketball giant Shaquille O'Neal. Revolution takes this idea and runs with it, adding a whole rogues' gallery of unendorsed, caricatured "slebs" under pseudonyms. Naturally, it updates the idea. To round about 2001.
You get Brad Pitt as he appeared in Snatch (2000), Jack Black in a schoolboy uniform (School of Rock, presumably - 2003), David Beckham with a mohawk (2001), and portly liggers John Travolta and David Hasselhoff, whose irrelevance is a universal constant. It feels like a missed opportunity. They're passably amusing likenesses of a bunch of pretty famous people, but there's nothing especially exciting about making them beat the crap out of each other; nothing with the stellar irreverence of making Gordon Ramsay tussle with Vladimir Putin, say, or having Barack Obama punch Lily Allen's lights out. (Or, for that matter, getting 50 Cent to shoot up the Middle East.)
Unique selling-point so shrugged off, it's left to the looks, structure and mechanics of the game to recommend themselves. It's a fairly slick presentation, bold and solid - although the art style has a definite whiff of the tourist-trap street cartoonist, and the boxers' extravagant appearance isn't matched by their stilted animation. You can have some fun turning out grotesques with the create-a-boxer mode though - I became quite fond of simpering lightweight fop Bob "Nasty Boy" Doubles, with his purple hi-top and handlebar moustache.
It's a pretty complete package, too. Multiplayer is well-serviced with quick match, team match and full tournament modes. There's an Arcade mode, and a career Championship that alternates weekend bouts with weekday training mini-games that build up your fighter's stats. The training mini-games can also be played separately, should you so desire (you won't). Boxers are unlocked in arcade mode, while earning and spending cash in a Championship unlocks a wide range of character customisations.
As for the mechanics... well, I can't really report on the mechanics, because between me and them stand Ready 2 Rumble Revolution's control scheme: a solid wall of impenetrable, dysfunctional, impossible, self-defeating motion-control idiocy.
You can throw straight, hook and uppercut punches, with left or right hands, to the face or body, all in light or heavy variations. You can also duck, lean, block and throw weaving counter-punches. There are quite a few commands, in other words, and they're transmitted to the machine via a ludicrous semaphore of gestures with the remote and nunchuk, sometimes requiring button modifications as well as not one but twodirectional movements - heavy punches are built up with an initial move of that controller "outwards" (left for the nunchuk, right with the remote). You then jerk forward to throw a straight blow, up for an uppercut, or back inwards for a hook.
There are several fundamental problems with this. One: it looks and feels nothing like boxing. The frantic, spasmodic waving about is more like trying to conduct an orchestra playing the complete scores of Tom & Jerry while drunk, or attempting to translate Street Fighter into sign language. It makes no intuitive sense whatsoever, and offers zero cathartic, tactile fun - which is surely the whole point of gesture controls in the first place.
Two: the gesture detection isn't good enough, especially for the two-step heavy punch commands - but actually, for all of them. Virtually none of the commands (barring a straight, light punch) is reliable, even if it's simple - moving the nunchuk and remote in unison for a duck or weave, for example. The occasional slip often mars gesture-based Wii games built on standard gaming foundations like New Play Control! Mario Power Tennis - but Ready 2 Rumble enters a whole new realm of misinterpretation and command failure. They're both speaking a foreign language, but where Power Tennis is fluent if imperfect, Ready 2 Rumble didn't even bring the right phrasebook and is asking for directions to the parrot rehabilitation factory.
Three: it's just too slow. These commands take time to input, time to register and, even before that, time (quite a lot of it) for your brain to figure out which nonsensical spasm your arm should be making. They completely destroy the rhythm, and rhythm is the crucial underpinning of any successful fighting game.
And that takes us to the fourth, and perhaps biggest, problem with Ready 2 Rumble Revolution: one that might not even be solved if it supported button-and-stick input. It has no rhythm. It's the white guy on the dancefloor.
It was only when I came to play the training mini-games that I realised this. These simple, if poorly imagined, call-and-response rhythm action games are mystifyingly difficult, and this time, I sensed it wasn't the technology at fault. I just couldn't, try as I might, slot into the game's rhythm; understand when it wanted me to do what it wanted me to do. We stumbled and cursed and stepped on each other's toes. It was like trying to tango with an arthritic great-aunt.
Ready 2 Rumble Revolution has botched controls, faulty technology and unsympathetic style, but I suspect there's a half-decent arcade fighter residing somewhere underneath it all. Even if there is, though, it'll need to go back to the gym for some serious work before showing its face in the ring again. As it is, it dances like a buffalo and stings like wet cabbage.
3 / 10